The Great Wall of China is a must see if you happen to be in Beijing. There are basically two ways to get there – either hire a private driver (expensive) or take the public transport (more confusing but a lot cheaper).
There are various places to visit the great wall at. Badaling is supposedly very touristic and is most busiest, Mutianyu on the other hand, has slightly less people because it has steeper steps to climb. As I read up about Mutianyu I expected it to be a very steep hike, and although there are some areas where the stairs are almost vertical, it honestly didn’t seem that bad!
Paying a private driver
The prices differ from hotel to hotel, but in our hotel it was 600 CNY (77€) for one way. Although this is a lot easier and more convenient, it costs 150€ there and back!! Another option would be to go with a tour group – however the disadvantage of this is that you probably arrive when all tour groups arrive.
How to get there by bus
- Take the bus 916 from Dongzhimen bus station. The first bus comes at 08:30, if you go to the information desk the woman will point you in the direction of the bus stop. The bus ride costs you 12CNY (1.50€).
- Get out when you see H24 on the bus stop outside. The stop is called Huairou Beidajie (but you won’t be able to read it unless you can read chinese). You first have a while to relax on the motorway, and then once the bus gets to the next town keep a look out for H24 on the bus stops outside.
- Cross the road and wait by the bus stop for bus H24. Hop on it and you will pay 3 CNY (40 cent).
- Get off at Mutianyu Huandao (there were quite a few tourists in the bus so you can all get off together).
- Walk straight ahead and then turn right at the roundabout. The entrance will be on the left side.
Altogether you pay 15 CNY (2€)!
This step by step guide by bus may seem really easy but I do want to point out it can be stressful and confusing as there are no english signs anywhere. We were walking around Dongzhimen bus station for at least half an hour before we finally found the bus stop. We read online that the first bus leaves at 07:30 but this was wrong. The woman at the info desk wasn’t there at the beginning (maybe she first starts work at 8am) and we tried asking people but barely anyone can speak English!! Once we found the woman at the info desk she could point us in the right direction.
The next difficulty was knowing when to get off the bus. As I said, look for the bus stop that says H24. I saw it and then checked with the policeman and he nodded, but it can be stressful if you keep thinking you missed the stop.
Getting back from the great wall was also stressful at the beginning because we didn’t find the bus stop and there was an (illegal) taxi driver following us around shouting “taxi” at us. Luckily a proper taxi happened to be driving past (legal taxi’s are yellow and blue with a sign on the roof) and we were able to drive back to the bus station.
If someone knocks on the windows of the bus and shouts “great wall of china”, don’t get off! They are illegal taxis trying to scam you by taking you to the great wall for a lot more money than you need to pay! Also when waiting for bus H24 don’t listen to them at all, they will also lie and tell you the next bus doesn’t come for hours, or it the bus doesn’t drive there.
Ask your hotel to write down “The great wall of china Mutianyu” on a piece of paper in Chinese. This helps when you want to ask someone for directions. You can also show it to the bus driver or policeman so you know when to get off the bus.
Once you get to the Great Wall entrance, you have to buy a ticket for a shuttle bus to get to the Great Wall. There are no helpful signs saying this so just go up to the ticket counter (tickets cost 15 CNY – 2€) and then walk past the shops to the shuttle bus. The ticket also counts as your return ticket!
After the shuttle bus you then have to buy another ticket to enter the Great Wall (again, no signs anywhere saying you have to do this). The ticket costs 30 CNY (4€).
You can get back exactly the same way as you came. Watch out and ignore the illegal taxi drivers shouting at you. Before we found the bus stop for H24 bus, a normal taxi happened to be driving past. We paid 50 CNY (6.50€) to get back to the bus stop, and then drove back with bus 916 to Dongzhimen.
Legal taxi’s are easy to spot as they are yellow and blue and have a sign on their roof. They will not shout at you from afar and are cheaper and safer than getting an illegal taxi.
Using public transport was stressful and confusing, and it took about 2 and a half, to 3 hours. In the end I was happy we got to save our money and now that I have done it it doesn’t feel so bad! I personally would rather save money here and spend it on something else, but if you have money to splurge then a private driver is of course a lot simpler and stress free.
In total, for two people, we paid 194 CNY (25€) for the way there, back, and for the tickets to get into the Great Wall. That is only 12.50€ for one person!
I hope that with all my tips you can have a stress free time getting to the Great Wall.
If you have any questions, leave me a comment below!